Able-bodied Americans don’t have to think twice about entering or exiting a movie theater. They don’t have to pick restaurants based on whether the restrooms are accessible or worry about getting around a shopping center by themselves. For most of my adult life, I didn’t either.Then I lost my legs when my Black Hawk helicopter was shot down in Iraq. Suddenly, things I never considered — walkways, entrances, exit ramps — became everyday concerns that impacted where I could and couldn’t go. An entrance that was just a few inches off the ground or an exit ramp with an incline a degree too steep could cause humiliation or become a serious safety hazard.Prior to the passage of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) in 1990, this would have happened a lot more often. Back then it was commonplace for the disabled community to be denied access to stores, restaurants, buildings, and other facilities because public places were not required to be accessible for disabled people.The ADA changed this by setting minimum standards for accessibility in public places. But disturbingly, there are efforts underway in Congress to make Americans with disabilities second-class citizens again.
I’m fighting to protect our freedom. You can help by strengthening our grassroots network so we can organize against these efforts. Currently, powerful special interest groups and lobbyists want to relax ADA compliance. They want to give businesses a free pass to discriminate against disabled Americans.
The ADA gave Americans with disabilities the freedom to live full, independent lives. Businesses have had 27 years to make sure they are not in violation of it. Public spaces should be proactively accommodating disabled Americans — not dragging their feet to make changes after the damage is done.